Monday, 31 January 2011

Sir Richard Phillips (1767-1840)

Sir Richard Phillips (1767-1840) was a London publisher, proprietor of the Monthly Magazine, and a confirmed vegetarian.

Here's a bit you won't yet find in wikipedia - from "The Northern Heights of London: Or Historical associations of Hampstead, Highgate, Muswell Hill, Hornsey and Islington" by William Howitt in 1869....  (roughly my own summary)

As a boy he was brought up by his uncle, a brewer in Oxford Street.  He had a dislike for the trade and was determined to make his own tracks.  He became an usher at a school in Chester.  Then he was a schoolmaster in Leicester - and owned a small hosiery shop there.  He wanted to run a newspaper however... and thought of ways to achieve this.  As a result he began the 'Leicester Herald' - with republican principles - via which he met his chief writer, Dr Priestley.  He also became a bookseller, and the paper was printed at the bookshop.

This was the time of "Rights of Man" by Thomas Paine.. and magistrates went from town to town hunting out the book in bookshops for its radicalism... they collected the books and burned them.  Richard Phillips was condemned for selling the book and was sent to Leicester Gaol for 12 months.

His experiences with his local townsfolk disgusted him... he felt his ideas were too liberal... and so he moved to London and started the 'Monthly Magazine' - which he edited for many years.  In 1807 he was elected on of the Sheriffs of London, and when presenting an address to the corporation of London he was knighted.

Sir Richard Phillips was convinced once that he had disproved the laws of Sir Isaac Newton.  He delved deeply into the laws of the universe than most philosophers and theologians.  His ideas were not popular... he drew on ideas of Euler (from Letters to a Princess (1763)).

He was also vegetarian... the author Howitt met him and asked him to stay for dinner - on which Sir Richard announced he never ate meat:

"'Don't make any alteration in your arrangements for me, ' said the vegetarian knight, 'I see a very good first course before me.'  There was a roast goose on the table, and a sauce-tureen of apple sauce.  With the greatest coolness in the world, Sir Richard took up the sauce, turned it all out upon his plate, and quickly dispatched it, pronouncing it very good.  With equal appetite and equal disregard of the wants of others, he made a vigorous attack on the rest of the vegetables, and raised our wonder at the digestive capacity of a then, to us, new animal of the granivorous order.  After dinner, Sir Richard  preferred his literary inquiries, and on certain books being named as the best sources, he begged to know whether we had them, and then to borrow them....  ... We had discovered that as he had, soi-disant, discovered new laws of nature, he had equally discovered new laws of morals and social intercourse.  Sir Richard was one of the 'Curiosities of Literature'."

-(Howitt, William - "Northern Height of London" 1869)

"In Park Row (renamed Hyde Park Row in 1939) the houses were larger than those in Mills's Buildings, with segmental bays facing the park.  They probably always had a higher social status, and the first occupants included a doctor of divinity, the Rev. John Trotter. Two notable occupants in the 1820s were the author, publisher and vegetarian Sir Richard Phillips, and Olive Wilmot, who styled herself 'Princess Olive' and claimed to be married to the Duke of Cumberland. According to the writer John Timbs (author of unrelated excerpt below), Phillips and Princess Olive were next-door neighbours, but in fact they both seem to have lived at No. 4, Phillips moving in after Olive's departure in 1829.

-'Knightsbridge North Side: Parkside to Albert Gate Court: High Row', Survey of London: volume 45: Knightsbridge (2000), pp. 42-46. URL:

According to the above, John Timbs has written more on Phillips than the below...

"Among the Pythagoreans of our time should be mentioned Sir Richard Phillips, who from his twelfth year conceived an abhorrence of the slaughter of animals for food ; and from that period to his death, at the age of 72, he lived entirely on vegetable products, enjoying such robust health that no stranger could have suspected his studious and sedentary habits.  Sometimes this Pythagorean principle was strongly enunciated ; as, when about to take his seat at a supper-party, perceiving a lobster on the table, he loudly denounced the cruelty of his friends' sitting down to eat a creature which had been boiled alive! and the offensive dish had to be removed.  Sir Richard often published his Reasons for not eating Animal Food ; his abstinence drew upon him the harmless ridicule of a writer in the Quarterly Review, observing that, although he would not eat meat, he was addicted to gravy over his potatoes."

-John Timbs, F.S.A. 'Things to be remembered in daily life' , publ: W. Kent & Co, London (1863) pg.94 (Accessed via:

From "Noctes ambrosianæ" (Vol. 2) - some quite amusing some words and spellings...
"North: I have some thoughts, James, of relinquishing animal food, and confining myself,.like Sir Richard Phillips, to vegetable matter.
"Shepherd: Ma troth, sir, there are mony millions o' Sir Richard Phillipses in the world, if a' that's necessary to make ane be abstinent frae animal food.  It's my belief, that no aboon ane in ten o' mankind at large pree animal food frae week's end to week's end.  Sir Richard Phillips, on that question, is in a great majority.
"Tickler: North, accustomed, James, all his life, to three courses - to fish, flesh, and fowl - would think himself an absolute phenomenon, or miracle of man, were he to devote the remainder of his meals to potatoes and barley bannocks, pease-soup, macaroni, and the rest of the range of bloodless but sappy nature.  How he would be laughed at for his heroic resolution, if overheard by three million strapping Irish beggars, with their bowels yearning for potatoes and potheen!
"North: No quizzing, boys, of the old gentleman.  Talking of Sir Richard Phillips, I am sorry he is no longer - to my knowledge at least - the editor of a magazine.  In his hands the Monthly was a valuable periodical.  One met with information there, now-a-days I, at least, know not where to look for - and though the Knight's own scientific speculations were sometimes sufficiently absurd, they, for the most part, exhibited the working of a powerful and even original mind.
"Shepherd: I agree wi' him in thinkin' Sir Isaac Newton out o' his reckon' entirely about gravitation!  There's na sic things as a law o' gravitation.  What would be the use o't?  Wull ony body tell me, that an apple or a stane wudna fa' to the grun' without sic a law?  Sumphs that say sae!  They fa' to the grun' because they're heavy.
"North: I also liked Sir Richard's politics.
"Shepherd: Haw!!
"North: He was consistent, James - and my mind is so constituted as always to connect together the ideas of consistency and conscientiousness.  In his criticisms of literature and the fine arts, he appeared to me generally to say what he thought the truth - and although sometimes manifestly swayed in his judgment on such matters, like almost all other men, by his political predilections, his pages were seldom if ever tainted with malignity, and on the whole, Dick was a fair foe.
"Tickler: He was the only editor, sir, that ever clearly saw the real faults and defects of Maga, and therefore, although he sometimes blamed, he never abused her."

-John Wilson (ed) - Noctes ambrosian√¶ (1854) - via Google Books

[Note: Sir Richard Phillips writings against the ideas of Sir Isaac Newton appear in the following:]
Phillips, Sir Richard, Twelve Essays on the Proximate Causes of the Phenomena of Nature developing new principles of Universal Causation, J&C Adlard, 1821
Phillips, Sir Richard, Four dialogues between an Oxford tutor and a disciple of the common-sense philosophy:relative to the proximate causes of material phenomena, Sherwood Jones & Co, 1824

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